An Esoteric Cosmology. Lecture 13 of 18.
We will endeavor in contemplation to retrace the stages of man's evolution to the Logos by Whom this world was created.
Notes of an audience member of a lecture given by Rudolf Steiner in Paris on June 9, 1906:
We will endeavor in contemplation to retrace the stages of man's evolution to the Logos by Whom this world was created.
Modern exoteric science goes back to the Stone Age — an epoch when man lived in caves, using shaped stones as his only instruments. His existence was primitive in the extreme, his horizon narrow, his thought limited to the search for food and means for defending his life.
Occult science leads us back beyond this Stone Age to the epoch of Atlantis. In those times, man's physical appearance was not at all the same as it is today. It is known that the brow of prehistoric man was not developed, for, in effect, the development of the brow and forehead runs parallel with the development of the brain and of thinking. In days of yore, the physical brain was much smaller than the corresponding ether-form which extended beyond it on all sides. In the course of evolution, the etheric and physical brains have become more or less equal in size. A certain center in the etheric brain which is now inside the skull was then outside; in the evolution of Atlantean man, this center moved to the interior of the skull. It was a moment of cardinal importance, for as soon as man began to think, to be conscious of his own being and to say ‘I,’ he began to associate ideas and to calculate — which he could not do before. On the other hand, the earliest Atlanteans possessed a far stronger and truer memory. Their knowledge was based not upon the relations between facts but on their memory of these facts. They knew, by their memory, that a certain event would invariably give rise to a series of others; but they did not grasp the causes of these facts, nor could they think about them. In addition to this powerful memory, they possessed another faculty — a mighty power of will. Today, man can no longer work directly with his will upon the life forces. He cannot, for example, hasten the growth of plants by an act of will. The Atlantean had this power and was, moreover, able to draw from the plants ether forces which he knew how to use. He did this instinctively, without the help of intellect and the faculties of logical reasoning which are associated today with what we call the ‘scientific mind.’ To the measure in which intellectuality, the faculty of reflective thought and calculation, unfolded in the men of Atlantis, to that measure their powers of instinctive clairvoyance declined.
If we go still further back in the history of Atlantis, we come to a very remote period when expression through speech, that is to say, expression in articulate sounds, first became possible. This was the age when man began to walk upright, for speech and the expression of articulate sounds can only be a faculty of beings who stand upright.
Before the great Atlantean race, of which all European and Asiatic races were the offshoots, there existed another continent and other peoples, still nearer to the animal nature: the Lemurian race. Science only admits its existence as a hypothesis. Certain islands to the south of Asia and the north of Australia are, nevertheless, evidences of this continent; they are the metamorphosed remains of old Lemuria. The temperature of the Earth in those times was much higher than it is today. The atmosphere was vaporous, full of currents. In Lemuria, we find rudimentary human forms, breathing not through the nasal organs but through organs more like gills.
In the course of human evolution, organs are perpetually being transformed both as to character and appearance. Thus primitive man walked on four feet; he could not utter articulate sounds; he had no ears with which to hear. Movement in the semi-liquid, semi-gaseous element surrounding him was made possible by an organ which enabled him to float and swim. When the elements differentiated and man found himself on solid earth, this organ changed into the lungs, the gills into ears, and the frontal parts of his structure into arms and hands — free instruments for action. Besides this, he began to utter articulate sounds — the words of speech.
This great transformation was of cardinal importance to man. In Genesis (II.7), we read: “And the Lord God ... breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This passage describes the period when the gills once possessed by man changed into lungs and he began to breathe the outer air. Simultaneously with the power to breathe, he acquired an inner soul and with this soul, the possibility of inner consciousness, of becoming aware of the self living within the soul.
When man began to breathe air through the lungs, his blood was invigorated and it was then that a soul higher than the group-soul of the animals, a soul individualized by the ego-principle, could incarnate in him to carry evolution forward to its fully human and then divine phases. Before the body breathed air, the soul of man could not descend to incarnation, for air is an element enfilled with soul. At that time, therefore, man actually inbreathed the divine soul which came from the heavens. The words of Genesis, in their evolutionary sense, are to be taken quite literally. To breathe is to be permeated with spirit. This truth was the basis of the exercises given in ancient systems of yoga. These exercises were founded upon the rhythm of breathing, their purpose being to render the body fit to receive the impouring spirit. When we breathe we commune with the world-soul. The inbreathed air is the bodily vesture of this higher soul, just as the flesh is the vesture of man's lower being.
These changes in the breathing-process mark the transition from ancient consciousness, which was merely a play of pictures, to consciousness as it is in our time. Sense perceptions are received from the body; consciousness has a purely objective character. Consciousness in pictures (imaginative) created its own inner content by means of an inherent, plastic force. The further we go into the past, the more we find the soul of man living not within him but around him. We reach a point when the sense-organs existed only in germ and when man merely received from external objects impressions which gave rise to attraction or repulsion, sympathy or antipathy. The movements of this being — whom we cannot really call ‘man’ in our sense of the word — were governed by these feelings of attraction or repulsion. He had no reasoning faculty, and the pineal gland — an organ of cardinal importance in those times — was his only ‘brain’.
The existence of this imaginative consciousness is the answer to endless philosophical discussions on the objective nature and reality of the world and it is the refutation of all purely subjectivist philosophies, such, for instance, as that of Berkeley. Two poles of being and of life are essential to evolution. The ‘subjective universal’ becomes the objective universe; man proceeds, first, from the subjective to the objective and he will finally be led from the objective to the subjective by the development of Spirit-Self (Manas), Life-Spirit (Buddhi), Spirit-Man (Atman).
Dream-consciousness is an atavistic survival of the picture consciousness of olden times. One quality of this picture consciousness is that it is creative. It creates forms and colors which do not exist in physical reality.
Objective consciousness is by nature analytic; subjective consciousness is by nature plastic and has magical power. (This is indicated by the etymology of the word ‘image’). The subjective, plastic consciousness of man was thus superseded by objective, analytic consciousness. The procedure by which the soul (which, to begin with, enveloped man like a cloud) subsequently penetrated into the physical body may be compared with that of a snail secreting its own shell and then shrinking back inside it. The soul first gave form to the body and then penetrated within this body, having prepared the organs of perception from outside. The power of sight with which the human eye is endowed today is the same power which once was exercised upon the eye from without, in order that it might take shape.
The change from outer to inner activity of soul is expressed by a hieroglyph. This is the sign of Cancer in the Zodiac, expressing a dual action or movement — one from without inwards, the other from within outwards.
The middle of the third (Lemurian) epoch was the time when the soul passed into its self-created dwelling place and began to ‘animate’ the body from within. Before this point of time we find an astral humanity indwelling a purely astral Earth. Before that again, man and Earth existed merely in a devachanic condition. There was as yet no picture consciousness. Cosmic thoughts poured into and through the being of man. His higher soul was still part and parcel of the whole cosmos, participating in cosmic thought.
The further we retrace the parallel development of man and Earth, the more do we find them existing in a fluid, embryonic condition and the nearer to spirit. Today, we have reached the lowest point on the curve of descent; man and Earth have reached the greatest degree of solidification and are about to re-ascend, through the action of individual will, towards the spiritual.
What underlies this great process of evolution? Where was the home of human beings when, at the beginning, they existed merely in germ? Whence has man proceeded? Who created him? It is here that we must try to envisage a life and power of manifestation infinitely more sublime than all human, nay, than all planetary life. This power is the Logos.
In what does human and planetary life differ from the life of the Logos? — This question would seem to demand a flight into the unknown, into a universe of another order. And yet there are analogies which help us to understand or at least to divine something of the creative power of the Logos.
Let us try to envisage an all-embracing mind, a mind to which all earthly and planetary experiences are known. Such a mind could live through all and every form of evolution. But with this power alone it could not rise beyond the point of the creation of man and of the planetary system. It would remain in the sphere of what can be and has been proved by man. Human intelligence cannot pass beyond this limit.
But we can rise to a consciousness other than that wherein our experiences are merely realized in the mind. There are certain states of creative activity in which the spirit of man can give birth to something new, something never seen before. Such, for instance, is the consciousness of a sculptor at the moment he conceives or sees in a flash the form of a statue before his inner eye. He has never seen a model, he creates his statue. Such too, is the consciousness of a poet who conceives a poem in one flash of inspiration, in creative, spiritual vision.
This creative power is not generated by any intellectual idea but rather by a spiritual sense. Think of a hen sitting on its eggs. It is wholly given up to this brooding activity and is filled with a kind of warm, almost voluptuous pleasure in which there arises a dreamy pre-vision of the hatching of the little winged chicken. This bliss in the work of creation exists at every stage of cosmic life, and warmth pours from it. In the sphere of Cosmic Intelligence — which may be conceived as the world of thoughts accessible to the higher Self (Manas) — this warmth seems to pervade the whole universe, emanating from the creative life of soul (Buddhi). We can divine the presence of a creative sphere in existence before our Earth and ‘brooding’ over it. This is to ascend from Spirit-Self to Life-Spirit, and from Life-Spirit to Spirit-Man.
The Ego or ‘I’ Principle of man is created by the third Logos.
We should try to conceive the power of the higher Ego as being suffused through the whole universe as a life-begetting warmth, and then we reach the conception of the second Logos, by Whom macrocosmic life is quickened and Who is reflected in the creative activities of the human soul.
The one primal source and center of manifestation is the first Logos — the unfathomable Godhead.
In every age these three Divine principles have been represented in occultism by these three signs:
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